The verdict in a British domestic abuse case on Sunday prompted a flurry of charity donations and captured front pages — despite being fictional.
The character of Helen Titchener reached beyond the realm of radio this week, as the fictional domestic abuse victim, played by Louiza Patikas, went on trial in The Archers program on BBC Radio 4.
The long-running series usually depicts life in rural Britain, but on Sunday found itself at the center of a nationwide debate on domestic violence, with Titchener found not guilty of attempted murder after stabbing her abusive husband, Rob.
“Archers fans weep tears of joy as Helen is found NOT GUILTY,” read the Daily Mail front page, while the Guardian wrote: “Helen not guilty in Archers drama that gripped listeners.”
The storyline, in which Titchener was emotionally abused by her husband, sparked fervent discussion under the Twitter hashtags #FreeHelen and #TheArchers, and highlighted British courts’ approach to controlling or coercive behavior in relationships.
Jo Stevens, Britain’s shadow minister of justice, praised the program’s makers on Twitter for their “brilliant scripted/acted” story of domestic violence and women in prison.
A fundraising page titled “The Helen Titchener (nee Archer) Rescue Fund” has raised more than ￡150,000 (US$199,109) for the charity Refuge, whch helps victims of domestic violence.
More than 7,600 people have donated to the JustGiving page, with many sharing their personal experiences.
“Because I was lucky and got away,” wrote one anonymous donor of their reasons for giving, while many others described childhood experiences.
“Because my mum was Helen and I couldn’t do anything,” another wrote.
Interest in the verdict also inspired some people to donate even though they had not tuned in to the trial.
“As a 20 something male who only listens to techno never the arches [sic], came across the guardian article and it made me cry a lot. For the real Helens,” a donor wrote.
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